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Alan Woodyard: Delivering Exceptional Sail Care Services and Custom Canvas Products

March 8, 2017

Quantum Sails’ Loft Service Manager Alan Woodyard has sailed across the globe. Now he uses his expertise to provide solutions to his clients’ canvas and sail problems.

Where were you born and what are some of your best childhood memories? 
I was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Some of my favorite memories are from spending time in Ocean City, as well as trips to visit family in Ohio and Illinois. 

What are some of the duties that you perform in your current job?
As loft service manager and ambassador for new canvas fabrication, I provide evaluations, recommendations, and maintenance for sails and canvas products. I help with sail removals, installations, and onboard sail assessments, as well as sail repairs. I also build custom canvas items from scratch, starting with the design phase [and working] through production and installation.

How long have you been working for Quantum Sails? 
I started with Quantum Sails in Annapolis and worked there for two years before I began work at the Seabrook Loft, where I’ve been for eight months. In between stints with Quantum I founded and operated my own canvas shop in Annapolis. I loved working with Quantum, so it was an easy decision to join them when the opportunity arose.

How did you get into the industry?
I got interested in sailing while in college and decided to take an Outward Bound sailing course out of Hurricane Island in Maine. After that I was hooked, and eventually found my way to the Professional Mariner Training Program at the Chapman School of Seamanship, where I knew that I had found my passion. I excelled and finished at the top of my class. After seamanship school, I planned to look for a gig as a crew member on a sailboat, with my backup option being a move to Fort Lauderdale to search for a job on a super yacht.

Fortunately, about a week before my move to Fort Lauderdale, I was contacted by a boat owner who had just lost a crew member and was looking for help in Nassau, Bahamas. Three days after the first email I was on a plane to Nassau, and stayed for the next five years as a crew member on sailing yachts ranging from 45-65 feet. I traveled as far east as Portugal and the Canary Islands and as far west as Tahiti with many stops in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

How did you get into canvas specifically?
At one point during my five years on cruising boats we had an enclosure built for a boat’s cockpit. After watching that type of work, I became convinced that I could do similar projects on the boat, things like hatch covers and dinghy chaps. We got a little Sailrite portable sewing machine on the boat and we never bought canvas again. I made a variety of different items for the boat that I was on, and was commissioned to make dinghy chaps for a couple of other boats while in remote harbors where canvas work is hard to come by. When I returned to the States, I starting looking for a job in a sail and canvas loft. Through a mutual friend, I was put in touch with the Quantum Sails loft in Annapolis and started doing exactly the type of work that I was hoping to do. After starting out in the loft, I further advanced my canvas fabrication skills by attending a Hood Marine Canvas Training in Merrimac, Massachusetts.

What are some of the biggest changes that you have seen in the canvas business in the last 10 years?
It would easily be the introduction of laser templaters to aid in the templating process. They standardize 3D measurement on the yacht, allowing one to build a 3D model of the finished product that aids construction back in the loft. This not only increases the quality of the finished product, but also can help cut down on some of the labor required. There has also been a lot of development in UV resistant and stable materials, including thread, which helps me build better products. One item, Solarfix thread, is UV stable and will outlast your canvas, eliminating the need for re-stitches due to thread failure. 

When does a typical day for you start, and what does it look like? 
We start around eight a.m. here in the loft. I check the weather to see what outdoor work can be accomplished that day, including patterning for new canvas and/or sail removals. Then it’s back to the loft for new canvas builds, repairing sails, or maybe a precision recut on a sail for higher performance. Then I take time to communicate with all of our clients and answer any questions they may have. Then I’m back on the floor until five p.m. to finish projects and help get our clients back on the water.

What are the most popular color choices of canvas on the market today and why are these products and colors so popular? 
Captain and Pacific Blue are wildly popular, as is Cadet Grey. I think the grey is popular as it doesn’t fade as much and tends to hide some of the dirt/wear and tear. The blues are a good match for wood and are classic yachting colors that match with just about anything. Natural (white) tends to be avoided as it shows dirt relatively easily.

If you take care of your bimini, how long should it last in the sun-drenched Gulf Coast environment?
A lot depends on what “taking care of it” means. We tend to think of items in terms of seasons. With our area’s year-round sailing, we’re eating up two seasons of use per calendar year. Provided one builds their bimini out of premium products, including UV stable thread, I’d expect a bimini to last 12 seasons, or six years. A lot depends upon use. If you’re not going to use your yacht for a few months, and removing the bimini doesn’t compromise the yacht, take it off and stow it below. You can dramatically extend the life of these items by shielding them from the sun when not in use.

*This article was originally published in the ​Gulf Coast Mariner*

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